Hope Isn’t a Very Good Strategy

Posted: August 7th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 89 Comments »

That title is a quote that comes from Jim Schwartz’s morning press conference. I knew he would be a good coach, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy listening to him talk to the media.

Schwartz was asked about physical practices. He praised Doug Pederson, an offensive coach, for letting the team have practices with hitting and tackling. Schwartz was pointing out that you can’t expect to have a tough, physical team if you don’t hit in practice. At that point you’re hoping your players become tough and physical. Hope isn’t a very good strategy. The way to make sure you have a physical team is by having them practice physical football.

Someone tried to ask Schwartz about his expectations for this week’s preseason game. Schwartz would have none of that. He’s focused on this afternoon’s walk-through practice. Schwartz wants his players to stay on task. Deal with right now. Forget about next week. If players focus on the little things, it will show up in a big way. Have a good practice. Do a good job in your classroom meeting. Do a good job with weightlifting. And on and on and on. You don’t want players picking and choosing when to pay attention or when to really give good effort.

Schwartz has talked a lot this summer about the need for consistency. This ties right in to staying focused and dealing with the here and now. Do a good job of whatever it is you’re in the middle of. Success becomes a habit. Things may seem unimportant to a player, but the coaches have a reason for everything the players do. Little things can make a big difference. The best players embrace the details and strive for consistency.

The media asked Schwartz about Stephen Tulloch. Schwartz said it is up to Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas and their guys to constantly be looking for help for the team. He wouldn’t say he wanted Tulloch or got involved in that situation at all. Schwartz, having been a head coach, knows the roster is a very fluid thing in the summer, especially for a team that is in the midst of changes. He talked about the personnel guys looking at free agents, possible roster cuts and also potential cap casualties. Schwartz went to far as to say if the team can find a better defensive coordinator, let’s hire him. His goal is to build the best defense possible. He’s got good talent to work with, but help is always welcome.

Schwartz did offer praise to backup LBs Najee Goode and Joe Walker. He called Goode a young veteran and seems confident in him as the top backup LB. Schwartz said Walker is doing a good job of running the defense (getting players lined up and making calls). Just the other day Schwartz would not praise Jordan Hicks for that same thing, but he explained that Walker is a rookie so that makes things different.

DBs Jalen Mills, Eric Rowe and Blake Countess all were discussed. Schwartz loves Mills confidence and the fact he plays with the right attitude. CBs have to be cocky (borderline delusional) and they have to want the challenge of playing on an island. Mills does that. Schwartz likes Rowe’s size and physicality. It is critical for CBs in this scheme to come up and hit/tackle. Rowe will do that. Schwartz praised Countess for being a tough, physical player.

Someone asked about Steven Means. Schwartz praised his effort and attitude. He also talked about Means having good length and athleticism. He told the media to go talk to the TEs about Means since he has given them fits in some blocking battles.

Schwartz wants to praise his guys, but at the same time doesn’t want them to hear that and start patting themselves on the back. He wants to keep them hungry so they’ll have a chip on their shoulder. The best defenses play with emotion and attitude. Some of that comes naturally, but some of it is created and fueled by the coaching staff. Schwartz is going to push his guys relentlessly. He has an idea of how good they can be, but he can also look at recent history and know how bad they were. He’s not interested in making friends or keeping his players happy. Schwartz wants them to play with an edge and he’s going to do everything he can to make that happen.

He mentioned that the defense had a good morning practice, but then seemed to realized he just praised his guys and quickly followed that by saying that it is their job to play well so let’s not make a big deal of it.  I love that. Keep pushing them. Keep needling them. Push the defense to be the kind of unit they can be if they’ll start to play consistently well.

Don’t hope this group becomes a good defense. Do everything you can to make them a good defense.

_


Talking to Tulloch

Posted: August 6th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 83 Comments »

We’ve speculated about this for a while, but it now seems to be happening.

Could be a good move.

The Eagles appear to have a good set of starting LBs, but depth is a major question. Adding Tulloch to the mix could help in a big way. Right now Jordan Hicks is the MLB and it doesn’t sound like anyone is challenging him for that role. Tulloch could come in and right away battle for the job. Tulloch knows the system well. He played for Jim Schwartz in both Tennessee and Detroit.

It is possible that Schwartz could give Tulloch a look at WLB or SAM. He’s smart enough to play any LB spot. The problem for Tulloch is that age has started to catch up with him. He is now 31 and has played in 147 NFL games. Tulloch missed most of the 2014 season with an ACL injury. He wasn’t 100 percent last year and was basically a 2-down LB. The Lions had to wait for Tulloch to get healthy this spring before they could officially release him.

I wrote about Tulloch as a target back in June.

The Eagles were smart to take a look at the young guys. They’ve had a chance to see Joe Walker, Myke Tavarres, and Quentin Gause in action. Those guys have had good moments, but none of them has looked so good you would want them on the field in 2016. Tulloch has his issues, but he is a proven veteran who could be an effective starter.

I’m surprised that teams in need of starting LB help haven’t gone after Tulloch more aggressively, but that may be a hint about his health and his future.

One thing you can say about Jim Schwartz…his former players sure like him. Just ask Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Nigel Bradham and now possibly Tulloch.

Stay tuned.

_


Opportunity Knocks

Posted: August 6th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 23 Comments »

Marcus Smith moved to DE this offseason. Unfortunately, he didn’t bring good fortune with him. Smith hasn’t stood out at his new position. Today he suffered a concussion that could really hurt his chances to make the roster.

The former 1st round pick got a new lease on life when Doug Pederson took over as coach and hired Jim Schwartz to run the 4-3 defense. The new staff hoped playing in a simpler, more aggressive system would bring out the best in Smith. Based on all the practice reports, that simply hasn’t happened. This staff won’t feel any loyalty to Smith. He either earns a roster spot or he doesn’t.

The concussion could keep him out a few days or a couple of weeks. Time is crucial for Smith, who needs to show he deserves a spot.

With Smith out now, there is a chance for another backup DE to move up the depth chart. Steven Means has played well in recent days and is doing what Smith couldn’t…getting everyone to notice him. Jimmy Bama shared his take on Means from today.

Steven Means showed well during this drill. He blew up a running play to his side five yards in the backfield, but could not make the tackle in the end zone, as he was still being blocked. He stuck with the play and was able to bring down Byron Marshall, who did a good job at least wiggling his way to about the half yard line before Means could bring him down. After the play, one of the players on the sideline yelled out, “I see you, Means!” Throughout camp, Means has been playing RDE with the third team D. Today he got reps with the twos after Marcus Smith sustained a concussion. Means has clearly been better than Smith, in my opinion.

Means was signed to the active roster in early December of last year. He’s bounced around the NFL (TB, BAL, HOU, PHI), but hasn’t been good enough to stick anywhere. Maybe he has finally found the right defense for him. He is 6-3, 260 and athletic. He had a 38.5 inch vertical jump at his Pro Day. That shows explosion and that’s critical to being effective as a Wide 9 DE. You must fire off the ball and get into the backfield.

The Eagles have 3 outstanding DEs. Bryan Braman is mainly a STer, but can come off the edge and be effective as a role player. The 5th and final spot is open. Means is making his case for the job. Rookie Alex McCallister has a lot of potential, but must get bigger and stronger. Means has outplayed him to this point. There is a long way to go before we know what will happen at the bottom of the roster, but Means has done a good job of showing he deserves serious consideration.

*****

Tim McManus has an update on the kicker battle.

9:55 — Caleb Sturgis and Cody Parkey take turns kicking field goals. Sturgis has been more accurate overall, but in this instance has one bang off the upright and out. He’s able to connect from 50-plus yards out a moment later, however, while Parkey’s try comes up short and right.

Parkey was terrific in 2014. Sturgis was pretty good last year. This is a legitimate battle between two talented kickers. FGs are going to be the key, but KOs in preseason games will also play a part in determining which guy wins the job.

10:18 — Jalen Mills hasn’t stood out as much since the pads have come on, but looks good here as he breaks up a pass intended for Chris Givens down the left side that’s intercepted by Blake Countess. Jaylen Watkins nearly comes up with a pick a beat later, which would have been his second of the day. With both Jenkins (hamstring) and Rodney McLeod (personal reasons) out, Watkins has been getting some first-team looks at safety along with Ed Reynolds and Chris Maragos and is acquitting himself pretty well.

Mills was quiet for a bit, but it sounds like he has picked things up the past couple of days. There is nothing unusual about a rookie having some ups and downs as he goes through Training Camp. It is encouraging that Mills seems to be coming back around.

I’m curious about the backup Safeties. Watkins and Reynolds have talent. But each of them has one glaring weakness…tackling. That just happens to be arguably the most important thing for a Safety playing behind the Wide 9 front. I hope both players have made big strides in this area, but I won’t believe it until I see them in a preseason game.

*****

Good stuff from Jeff McLane on MLB Jordan Hicks.

— That being said, the Eagles’ run defense had a strong outing – particularly middle linebacker Jordan Hicks. He shot into the backfield during a “thud” period and wrapped up Sproles for a loss. Later, Hicks shed guard Stefen Wisniewski at the second level and stopped Barner. It’s been said before, but if Hicks can stay healthy the Eagles defense will be that much better off. The first team unit was without safeties Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring) and Rodney McLeod (excused to attend a family funeral). A rotation that consisted of Ed Reynolds, Jaylen Watkins, Chris Maragos and Blake Countess took their spots.

Hicks is critical to the defense for a few reasons. First, he’s got the brains to be a good MLB. He picked up the complex 3-4 very quickly last year. Figuring out the Wide 9 and 4-3 should be easier than that. Hicks is tough and athletic, meaning he can play the run and cover well. He’s not a 250-pound thumper that struggles when dealing with speedy athletes.

Hicks is also a playmaker. He picked off 2 passes and broke up 3 others. He forced a fumble and recovered 3 others. Finding a MLB who can do more than just tackle can be hugely beneficial to a defense.

McLane also noticed Ron Brooks, who hasn’t gotten much attention recently.

Back to the first team defense, cornerback Ron Brooks stopped Burton with an open field tackle. He had several of those today. Brooks is still playing opposite McKelvin with the first team defense. It might be time to start considering the possibility that he may start the season there. Bradford connected with Jordan Matthews when the slot receiver took corner Aaron Grymes to school. They combined for a 20-yard-plus play another period later. Tight end Zach Ertz had the catch of the day when he extended for a Daniel BB.

I thought Brooks got reps with the 1’s in the spring mostly because he knew the scheme. It seems more and more like he’s genuinely impressed the coaches. I still have a hard time buying him as a starter, but we’ll see what happens.

*****

You love the assistant coaches and players interacting like this. Practice can be long and hard. Summer days are brutally hot. Little things like this break up the monotony and bring some fun to the day. It also gets the competitive juices flowing and that can help players.

*****

You might have thought the Eagles would add a RB just to help eat up reps, but the coaches seem to genuinely like that group of players. WR is a different story. The coaches aren’t sure of much beyond Jordan Matthews. They’ll keep looking around.

_


Salty Jim

Posted: August 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 37 Comments »

Jim Schwartz met with the media on Thursday and didn’t have a lot of good things to say. Is it time to panic about the Eagles defense? No, not at all. In fact, this was good. Schwartz could have stood up there and talked about progress and praised lots of individuals. Everyone would have come away feeling good.

Too good.

Schwartz knows it is early August and he’s taking over a defense that has struggled in recent years. He’s not going to fawn all over them for everything they do right. The best example came after a question about Jordan Hicks ability to get the defense lined up correctly.

Schwartz later talked about how that is simply part of Hicks job so there is no reason to over-praise him for it. I could see where some might think Schwartz is being a bit of a jerk, hesitant to compliment a player. I like it. Let’s remember that it is the coach’s job to set a high standard and then force the players to meet that standard. Mike Singletary didn’t become a Hall of Fame linebacker because Buddy Ryan gave him a bunch of “gold stars”. Ryan was demanding. It drove Singletary crazy at times, but when he finally figured out what was going on, he, Ryan and the Bears defense made NFL history.

If you gave Schwartz truth serum (whatever drug combination that is today), he’d probably tell you lots of good things about his defense. But Schwartz wants more. He’s going to keep pushing them to be better, to take the next step. Today’s theme was the need for consistency. And that has been an issue with the defense for the past few years. They would dominate a veteran QB like Eli Manning and then get lit up by a rookie like Jameis Winston. Remember Matt Cassel and Matt Asiata destroying the defense in 2013?

Schwartz sees the talent. He knows the potential is there. He also knows this group has underachieved and been wildly erratic in recent years. Schwartz is going to try to push the right buttons to get this group to play up to their potential and even beyond that point. “Good enough” won’t be good enough.

As much as I liked Bill Davis, I do think you need a defensive coordinator who can be a bit of a jerk. Emotions have a place on the defensive side of the ball. Buddy Ryan could be a pain in the ass. Some players hated him. Bud Carson was tough. Jim Johnson could be a jerk when he needed to be. Schwartz has the same type of personality and ability to be really hard on his players. He’s trying to drive them. Sometimes that calls for tough love. Other times it calls for being a flat out jerk. I think he’s allowed to be nice to the players every other Tuesday for 7 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t as if Schwartz can simply be demanding. He also has to be a good play-caller and teacher. And you can bet he’ll have plenty of good things to say when the Eagles shut out the Cowboys this fall.

Too early to dream?

Here is the PC on PE..com.

*****

Jimmy Bama liked what he saw from Joe Montana Sam Bradford today.

Sam Bradford was outstanding during the Eagles’ red zone session today. Here are the throws he made during that session:

  1. Pretty ball to Jordan Matthews on a corner route in the back of the end zone. TD.
  2. Accurate throw to Brent Celek for a 10+ yard gain.
  3. Audibled at the line, and hit Josh Huff on a curl route.
  4. Touch throw to Chris Givens in back corner of end zone. TD.
  5. Tried to find Trey Burton in back of end zone, but the pass fell incomplete. Still, it was in a spot where only Burton could get it.
  6. On the money throw to Burton on a slant, but dropped.
  7. Dump down to Darren Sproles near the flat that was slightly off. They completed it, but Sleeves did not allow Sproles to maximize his run after the catch.
  8. Fade to Burton on the money. TD.
  9. Drop by Celek on a hard-thrown ball at a short distance, that needed to have juice on it so it wouldn’t be picked.

That may have been Bradford’s best series of camp so far.

I think Bradford will be better than last year. He seems a lot more comfortable, with himself (medically), his surroundings and the offense. Bradford spoke to the media today and seems like a different guy. I’m not ready to say he’s going to have a great year or anything like that, but he might play the way he did down the stretch last year. He was more confident and more comfortable. And more effective.

Now for some DBs.

• There’s just something I don’t like about the way Rueben Randle plays. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of fight in him. On a short throw by Daniel, the ball was off the mark, but not so bad that Randle couldn’t have tried harder to make a play on it. Instead, Jalen Mills came up with the pick because he wanted it more. Credit Mills for making the play, but it was not Randle’s best moment.

• Mills is clearly ahead of Eric Rowe at this point, by the way. I’m not sure if aliens abducted Rowe and replaced him with some other version, but he has not looked at all like the promising player we saw in the back half of the season last year.

Be patient with Rowe. He is talented and should still have a bright future, but there is no denying that he’s behind where he should be right now. Thankfully, Mills has mostly played well. The preseason games will be a huge test for him.

Make sure to ready Jimmy’s whole post. Lots of good Red Zone nuggets in there.

*****

Brandon Lee Gowton liked what he saw from Carson Wentz.

Carson Wentz had a good day. He made some real nice throws, especially in the red zone. Wentz showed great touch on a number of fade passes during red zone drills. He threw perfect passes to Byron Marshall and Rueben Randle for touchdowns. The rookie also connected with Matthews and Paul Turner on deep throws in one-on-one sessions. Wentz showed off his fast release on the last play of practice, connecting with Nelson Agholor on a slant over the middle. It’s still early, but the Eagles should be reasonably encouraged by the progress Wentz has made this offseason.

Wentz did have one bad throw. He tried to fit a ball to Agholor near the goal line butRodney McLeod jumped the route and picked it off.

Great word choice there…progress. Wentz is a rookie coming from a I-AA program. And he doesn’t have a ton of starts under his belt. We all knew there would be a learning curve. The two big things you want to see are 1) raw talent and 2) progress. You need the rookie to show he has the physical ability to play in the NFL. Wentz has done that. You also want to see the rookie getting better as the offseason/season moves along. That tells you he is learning and is headed in the right direction.

Lots of good short notes here.

Jason Kelce spent some extra time off to the side mentoring Gordon, who played tight end at LSU, on his blocking technique. Good to see the vets help the young guys.

Bennie Logan is a beast. He broke up a screen play intended for Kenjon Barner by firing into the backfield and knocking down the pass.

• Rookie Joe Walker had good coverage on Zach Ertz over the middle. He forced Ertz into attempting a one-handed catch, which wasn’t successful.

• Dark horse roster candidate Steven Means continues to flash. The 26-year-old lineman blew up an end around by Agholor. Then he beat Gardner off the edge and forced Wentz to scramble out of the pocket.

• Earlier this week, I noted Chris Pantale hasn’t had a great training camp. His struggles continued today with two drops.

Sounds like I’m going to have to pay attention to Steven Means in preseason games. I can’t wait to see Bennie Logan in action. This new scheme could bring out the best in him.

*****

Jeff McLane shared his thoughts on the OL/DL battles.

— Curry had the highlight rush during one on ones. He gave tackle Dennis Kelly a little shake that tipped him off balance and then went in for the kill with a bull rush that knocked – Timbbbbeeeeerrrr! – Kelly on his rear. Kelly, to his credit, bounced back on Curry’s next rush and ran him outside. But that earlier moment won’t show up well on film. I’ll have more on Curry in my newspaper column. Rookie guard Isaac Seumalo had some strong moments. He has solid technique. He tied Logan up with his hands on one rush, and was able to hop-hop-hop and keep defensive tackle Taylor Hart in front. I’d imagine former Eagles offensive line coach Howard Mudd would have loved to work with Seumalo. Smith fared better against Gordon than he did on Wednesday. He looked motivated.

Seumalo has gotten off to a rough start based on all the reports, but he’s now got more than a week of practice under his belt. The light should start to come on for him. Taylor Hart hasn’t generated much buzz this summer, but Schwartz did offer some semi-praise to him today. Preseason games will be critical for Hart.

I like what I’m hearing about DT Mike Martin.

— Depth chart notes: Defensive tackle Mike Martin and defensive end Brandon Graham, for the second day in a row, spent most of practice with the first team defense in place of Bennie Logan and Vinny Curry, respectively. Again, the switch doesn’t mean much in the long run because there will be a rotation. Martin continued to impress. His get off is his best attribute. He stormed past Stefen Wisniewski on one team drill and all the guard could do to stop him was grab his jersey. Martin also did well during one on ones.

The Eagles need depth at DT so it is critical that Martin play well and show he can be part of a rotation. Schwartz talked about the need for a strong rotation. He would probably love to have 8 DL that he could rotate in and out. The backups won’t get on the field for the heck of it. They have to earn snaps. Martin is doing exactly that.

*****

Josh “Mr. Wawa” Paunil has noticed some fringe players standing out.

9:12 — Chase Daniel throws a nice 25-yard touchdown pass to Paul Turner, who ran a corner route. The undrafted free agent out of Louisiana Tech showed up a few times today, including on a touchdown catch on a post route from Carson Wentz a little bit later, which was a nice drop in the bucket from Wentz.

Pederson gave Turner — or “PT” — some love yesterday, while Sam Bradford did the same today.

“Yeah, he does [catch everything]. He’s just got a great feel for the game. He’s one of those guys — he’s a good route-runner, but not just that, his ability to find zones, to recognize coverage, to know whether he’s working off the man in front of him or if he’s working on a man in the second level. I think he’s just got a really good, natural feel for how to find soft spots in the defense. And he’s made a lot of plays for us, too.”

Paul Turner is getting a lot of attention in recent days. This isn’t random, either. He’s playing well and earning the attention of those watching practice. This is exactly what you want rookies and young players to do. Stand out. Force people to take notice of you. Turner has gone from camp body to a player who might push for a practice squad spot. I need to see him in games before I can say if he has any shot at the roster. That seems a bit much right now.

9:17 — Aaron Grymes picks off Daniel by simply taking the ball from Rueben Randle, and then breaks up another pass in his next rep. We have a long way to go before final cuts, but Grymes seems like a great candidate for the practice squad.

Grymes is the defensive version of Turner. Lacks ideal size. Lacks ideal speed. Never a great college player. But somehow both guys are playing well this summer. Grymes was in the CFL so he’s got some experience. I’m sure the Eagles love his versatility. They’ve plugged him in at CB, slot and Safety. At the bottom of the roster, you better be able to do more than one thing.

*****

Malcolm Jenkins missed some time today and that meant more reps for Ed Reynolds.

Schwartz said the backup Safeties need to take advantage of this opportunity. That is wide open right now. There is a spot, or spots, open for the taking. But someone has to step up and play well.

_


Big Boy Day

Posted: August 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 68 Comments »

The OTAs are all about skill players. There is no tackling. There is no hitting. There is virtually no contact. Little guys run around untouched and all look good. Linemen likely enjoy the ease of those practices, but they hate not being able to knock the crap out of the guy across from them. Linemen love to hit. They like to be hit. They love the physicality of the game.

Today the Eagles did a lot of hitting and some full-on tackling. This was Big Boy Football.

Let’s start with practice notes from Jimmy Bama.

Vinny Curry was a menace during a “live” (tackling) goal line session. He was able to get penetration three times, blowing up plays in the backfield. He destroyed two run plays for a loss of yards, and got to Chase Daniel for a sack on a play action pass. This defense suits Curry’s skill set, where he can just put his head down and get into opposing backfields.

Stefen Wisniewski had another really good day. He won his battles in 1-on-1’s, and buried what looked like a linebacker (I didn’t catch the number) downfield on a screen. Wisniewski is getting reps with the ones while starting RG Brandon Brooks is out nursing a hamstring injury. Wisniewski is making the most of that opportunity, as he has stood out.

• Another defensive lineman who had a great day was free agent acquisition Mike Martin, who got penetration a few times in goal line sessions. However, the one moment that stood out to me was during 1-on-1’s. Facing off against Allen Barbre, Martin smacked the crap out of Barbre’s hands, and was easily able to get around him quickly for a sack. Hand technique is so important for defensive linemen, and Martin showed some nice skills there today.

The biggest curiosity for me in regard to Curry isn’t whether he’ll make plays, but rather how he will handle playing a lot. He played in a career high 427 defensive snaps last year. Back in 2014, DE Mario Williams played 673 snaps for Jim Schwartz in Buffalo. How will Curry’s body handle an extra 100 or 200 or even more snaps?

Wiz has been a nice surprise in camp so far. I don’t know if the urgency of his career finally sunk in or this is just the right situation, but there have been positive reports on him for several days now. Wiz is playing a lot with Brandon Brooks out due to his injury. I’m looking forward to Brooks returning and then possibly seeing if Wiz can challenge Allen Barbre for his LG spot.

Martin will be the #3 or #4 DT for the Eagles this year so it is good to hear he’s playing well. Martin has played in 46 games and has 5 starts so he’s got some idea of what he’s doing. The Eagles have good starters across most of the defense. The key for this summer is finding depth. If Martin (or one of the other DTs) will step up, that will make the coaches a lot more comfortable heading into the season.

*****

Next up is Tim McManus.

9:05 — Jim Schwartz is varying up the d-line groupings. Brandon Graham has been running mostly with the twos but is with the top group today opposite Connor Barwin. Mike Martin is in for Bennie Logan.

Sam Bradford misfires on a pass intended for Jordan Matthews as 11-on-11s begin, then rebounds with a nice strike down the seam for Paul Turner, or “PT” as Doug Pederson called him afterwards.

“Aw, man, I’ll tell ya, Turner — PT — he’s a kid that’s really kinda understood our offense, understood his role,” Pederson opened with when asked about the undrafted rookie receivers.

With Chip Kelly, a nickname was a sure sign that the player was in his good graces. Not sure if it’s as hard and fast a rule with Pederson, but PT can only be encouraged by this development.

Great minds must think alike. I thought the exact same thing when Pederson started talking about Turner. This could be a good sign. Also, this is a player we better payt attention to.

Speaking of UDFA receivers…

9:18 — The catch of the day — and of camp to this point — belongs to Cayleb Jones. The 6-2, 209-pound rookie out of Arizona elevates over Denzel Rice, snares Daniel’s long toss with one hand, hits the ground with a thud and somehow manages to hold on for the score as he rolls over. That was pretty.

Jones has NFL ability. He just has to learn to play at a consistently high level. He is hurt by being a 4.6 receiver, but with his size, he can play in the West Coast Offense.

None of the WRs has been great so far. It sounds like Pederson is really paying attention to Turner, who played collegiately at Louisiana Tech. Turner lacks ideal size at 5-10, 193 and isn’t a burner (4.55), but he’s smart and that can help him to play faster than he is. I’m looking forward to seeing him in a preseason game next week.

*****

Jeff McLane had good notes today.

The Eagle had two live periods – during short yardage and the hurry up. On the first team offense’s second play of short yardage, Sam Bradford feathered a perfect pass to Kenjon Barner after a play-action fake (remember those?). Barner took it to the house vs. the second team defense. A play later, cornerback Eric Rowe came up and tackled receiver Rueben Randle after a short gain. Rowe has struggled in man coverage at times, but tackling is a strength. When the first team defense had its turn vs. the second team offense, safety Malcolm Jenkins blitzed off the corner and skied high to tip a Chase Daniel pass. Safety Rodney McLeod caught the floater for an interception.

 Goal line was intense – it’s always intense. The players were juiced up. Barner turned the corner for the first team offense’s first score. Bradford hit Barner again off play-action, although defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz seemed to want a holding penalty. On the next play, Bradford rolled left off play-action and had three options streaking to the corner. He connected with tight end Zach Ertz in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. Barner was stood up in the backfield by Joe Walker on his last carry. The first team defense dominated the first two plays of their series. Defensive end Vinny Curry raced into the backfield for back-to-back tackles for loss. Defensive end Brandon Graham assisted on the second.

The hitting changes the atmosphere. It brings out more emotion and intensity in the players, which I think is a good thing. It doesn’t mean they suddenly get tough or that they learn better in this format, but it just brings a vibe to the action that I think does help. This is football. Physicality and emotion are part of the game. I remember a story from Matt Millen’s rookie year with the Raiders. He was sloppy and the coaches were getting on him. One of the veteran linemen knocked the crap out of Millen during a play. Millen noticed blood and then realized it was his own. The sight of his own blood got him going and he was all over the field the rest of practice. That’s an extreme example, but there can be real value in players beating on each other. Just don’t overdo it when they’re all on the same team.

Bradford is ahead of where he was this time last year – not only because of his health, but also because of his comfort in the offense. It isn’t as much his ease in the West Coast as it’s being able to have the playbook at the line of scrimmage. Bradford likes to direct traffic and prefers to have the ability to check out of plays. He killed an early play and went to Barner with a handoff that resulted in a short gain. Aside from the aforementioned throws, he had a number of strong throws. He hit rookie receiver Paul Turner downfield before the live periods. During hurry up, he completed 5 of 7 passes – and even kept on a zone read (!) during an 11-play touchdown drive. Barner, who took a ton of snaps with Ryan Mathews (ankle) still out and rookie Wendell Smallwood (quadriceps strain) now sidelined, finished the series off with a run up the middle.

Bradford is a smart, veteran QB. One of his best assets is his mind. Pederson is going to give the QB a lot of freedom at the line of scrimmage so this should help Bradford to be more comfortable and make some good adjustments. We’ll see if that translates to better overall play.

Oh…and there’s that Turner guy again.  PT.

Now for the shocker.

Undrafted rookie Dillon Gordon was the star of offensive-defensive line one-on-ones. He owned defensive end Marcus Smith during one pass rush. He just kept pushing Smith away from getting closer to the objective – a towel on the ground. Smith got frustrated and after he finally touched the towel he gave Gordon another push. Gordon did the same to rookie defensive tackle Aziz Shittu. During early team drills, Gordon was at left guard and he mauled Logan with a trap block. By the end of practice he was at left tackle. Gordon played tight end at LSU. At 6-foot-4, 322 pounds, he was primarily a blocking tight end. Could he possibly follow in Jason Peters’ footsteps as a tight end that makes the successful transition to the offensive line?

Jimmy Bama also had praise for Gordon. I’m shocked. Gordon was a blocking TE at LSU, but he wasn’t all that good. He struggled when blocking DL. He did a good job on LBs and DBs, but also outweighed them by 50 to 100 pounds. I give total credit to the scout or coach that watched Gordon play and thought he could make the move to OL in the NFL.

Obviously we’re a long way from him seriously challenging for a roster spot, but he’s off to an impressive start and could be ideal for the practice squad.

*****

Wujciak is an athletic DT who played in a restrictive system at BC. I was hoping to see what he could do in the Eagles attacking system.

This really helps Destiny Vaeao’s chances of pushing for a roster spot, or at least securing a spot on the practice squad. It also helps Aziz Shittu, who is another UDFA lineman trying to fight for a job. He seems like more of a project than Vaeao, but Shittu has talent and played at Stanford. They’ve put some solid defenders into the league in recent years.

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